After the Floods

Earlier this month, Hurricane Matthew churned its way up the east coast after devastating Haiti.  Coastal communities from Florida to Virginia experienced flooding and storm damage, but perhaps not as badly as anticipated.  The flooding in inland North Carolina, though, was massive, killing at least 26 people, and damaging crops, homes, and cultural resources.
As the Matthew-spawned rains in Virginia rushed downstream, off the Scarp and toward the ocean, the water level in the Great Dismal Swamp rose and rose and rose.

That’s what wetlands are for, right?   Access to the Refuge was cut off for several days and the Refuge crews have since been working very hard to clear roads and trails of downed trees, stranded fish, and  washed out spots.  Much to my surprise and delight, Ella and I got the go-ahead to try to visit our site over the weekend.  I say ‘try’ because nobody knew whether the canal roads as deep into the swamp as we wanted to go were passable, or whether our ‘island’ was still an island.

could be worse

It really could be a lot worse.

As it turns out, the roads were in pretty good shape, apart from a couple of rather large trees blocking the way.  Not knowing what we’d find, we carried minimal equipment, scrambled rather inelegantly over the trees, and wandered up the road to our “trail.”  It was more like a “wade” than a trail: the Swamp at its swampy best.  More downed trees (we must check out the root masses) and few unexpectedly deep holes later, we arrived on the island to find the site in better-than-expected condition.

The soils were wet to be sure (Suffolk received upwards of 10 inches of rain in a day during the storm), and a few large branches had fallen (one skewered itself more than a foot into the ground!) but the tarp was still covering the units and the walls were very much in tact.  Our island’s status as an ‘island’ is confirmed, even in times of very high water!  Yay!

Ella cleaning up

Ella cleaning up.

We did a little clean-up work in the main excavation area and managed to open one new unit.  Pushing the still-wet soils through the 1/16th inch mesh screen was slow-going indeed but worth the effort for the artifacts we found.
While we wait for the soil to dry a bit more, swampscapes goes on the road this week to a different kind of wild place: New York City.  Stay tuned!


Now in 3D!

If you’ve heard me talk about a certain set of fossils in the last year or so, you’ve probably also heard me rave about the DC Public Library FabLab and the amazing bones they’ve printed for me.  Today it was swampscapes turn in the FabLab – creating 3D digital models of artifacts.


A bottle glass fragment on the scanner.  Thanks to Adam for all the help!

The NextEngine scanner and software did most of the work: directing a laser to generate point clouds with tens of thousands of points for each artifact and processing the data into a nifty image.  This is not a speedy endeavor.  One large stone tool required almost 2 hours to scan and process.

It’s worth the wait, though.  Some small details stand out more clearly in the scans.  (Check out the net impressions on the outer surface of the tiny handmade ceramic rim fragment below).  And, the scans can travel to conferences and events while the artifacts themselves rest safely back in the AU lab.

Plus, it keep us entertained while we wait for the Swamp roads to dry out after rains from Hurricane Matthew last week.  More scans to come…stay tuned.